Modi government is misusing the ‘fake news’ tag to try to evade media scrutiny -Shoaib Daniyal
During the coronavirus pandemic, India needs a free press more than ever. These intimidation tactics do not help.
Publishing news based on information from credible, unidentified sources is a global journalistic practice. This allows critical facts to surface even if sourcexsce afraid of repercussions. In India, though, the government is creating an atmosphere in which journalists will be afraid of publishing such material.
On Sunday, the Delhi Police summoned an Indian Express reporter, Mahender Singh Manral, for questioning. The trigger: a report by Manral on Saturday, based on information from anonymous officials, that the Delhi Police’s initial investigations had revealed that an audio tape of the Tablighi Jamat head Muhammed Saad Kandhalvi may have been doctored.
The article was a political hot potato. For weeks, a clip had been doing the rounds purporting to demonstrate that Saad had advises his followers not to heed physical distancing norms and prohibitory orders. It was a key element in the widespread narrative that sought to primarily blame the spread of the coronavirus in India on the Tabligh, a Muslim group that had held a large meeting in Delhi in March, before prohibitory orders were in place. Pushed by media outlets favourable to the Bharatiya Janata Party, this narrative has flooded through social media groups. If the clip itself had been tampered with, however, this media messaging would be dented.
On Saturday afternoon, the Delhi Police put out a statement claiming that the “news is not only factually incorrect but seems to be based on wholly unverified sources and purely conjectural imagination”. The Indian Express denied this, leading to the police forcing the reporter to come in for questioning or face legal action under Indian Penal Code Section 174, which could even result in a jail term. In fact, the Indian Express had asked for a response from the Delhi Police before publishing the article but did not receive one.
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Scroll.in, 12 May, 2020, https://scroll.in/article/961681/modi-government-is-misusing-the-fake-news-tag-to-try-to-evade-media-scrutiny?fbclid=IwAR1ONSWoZrLaQude4jmCNj7eFloL4H33PwXAtqaSvb3lqKcL6qEn3OcQ1OI